Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Randomness

Each month, Yoga Journal has an asana sequence they share in their magazine, offering the reader a chance to explore a new practice without leaving the home.  Now they are offering a video that shows the practice from beginning to end.  (They also have a couple of other videos you can watch, if you are so inclined.)

These just blew me away.  Using paper only, these artists do some amazing things.  Shadesong shared this through Google Buzz and am passing it along to all of you.

This article brought tears to my eyes because I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who do understand how hard it is for me to live so constantly with vertigo. 

23 Facts about vertigo and balance disorders.  Some interesting statistics with an emphasis on vestibular vertigo.

This is a video and transcript of an interview with a Catholic nun who is also a Reiki Master.  Given that the bishops in New York came down on Reiki as not compatible with Reiki, I thought this was especially interesting.  I don’t know of a single Reiki practitioner who believes that they are manipulating God so perhaps if the bishops who question the practice were to discuss it with Reiki practitioners they would understand it better.  There may still be no acceptance but at least the decision would be based on truth and not on conjecture.

And for those who are going to Momo-Con, be sure to say hello to this beautiful person.  You can even tell her I sent you. 

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Aspire by Kevin Hall

Aspire: Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words by Kevin Hall is one of those inspirational books that is written to motivate the reader to greatness.  Anyone who has tried to keep up with the type of books I like will know that I usually don’t feel terribly inspired by so-called “inspirational books” which is why I am happy to say that this is one of the rare ones I enjoyed reading. 

To be honest, I think it had more to do with Hall’s concept more than its content.  Each chapter is devoted to a single word and its meaning, with some digressions into the meaning and etymology of complementary words.  The book is full of personal stories from Hall’s life, coincidences that, in a novel, would annoy me but which I realize happen in real life although in the author’s case they seem to happen with remarkable frequency. 

I don’t know that the inspirational part of the text excited me so much as the word-study part of it did.  I remember researching the etymology of many words during my time at college, always striving to find the perfect term for what I was trying to convey and getting especially excited when I found out the root meaning of a word had something to add to the contemporary usage.  The book has renewed my interest in this practice, as you may have already noticed from one of my blog posts, and I hope to keep the flame alive within myself.

Over all, I think this book is better than most of its ilk.  There’s a website complete with testimonials although it looks like the site isn’t quite complete.  Not sure why the site wouldn’t be up and running in time for the book’s release but I’m sure that as the book’s popularity inevitably grows, it will be updated and more fully realized.  I certainly hope so because right now, what is there, wouldn’t be enough to drive me to read this book, which is unfortunate, because the book is quite fun to read and at times even interesting.  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creative Writing: Flash Fiction

He is holding a gun to my forehead, pressing it hard enough to leave a mark, and I know it is too late. 

“You think you won’t do it?  Huh?  Do you?”

I don’t think he won’t do it.  I know he won’t.  I see the sweat dripping down the side of his face and I know that for whatever reason the courage he had to shoot the other person, whose puddling blood I can see on the periphery of my vision, has gone.

Now I’ll have to find a less communal way of killing myself.  Damn.

Why I Am Not Catching the Wave--Google Wave That Is

I didn’t know anything about Google Wave until my friend Greg Brown was eagerly singing its potential praises.  Then my children jumped on board.  Well, my son Marc and my daughter, Rei, did anyway.  I accepted the invite, invited a few others, and we were off and . . .

Nothing.  I am not sure what the hype is all about.  I have started several waves, all of which have proven to be dead in the water because nobody replies.  Why?

There is no wave to email interface.  In other words, when I start a wave nobody knows.  And when they reply to it I have no way of knowing unless I log into the site each and every day.

Now, they say that the interface is in the works.  In the meantime, here is what I have.

1)      I have one wave in which everyone I have listed as a contact is added.  I created it on 6 January and ten days later Greg finally noticed and responded.  (Not blaming Greg because without that interface he wouldn’t know there’s a new wave created.)  I responded a week later.  Then, for shits and giggles, I added to the wave each and every day to see if anyone would ever chime in.  I did that until 4 February at which point I gave up, bored with writing my own thoughts.  There are 8 people who have been added to this wave and no interaction in over a month.
2)      The second wave I have going is with my daughter and my son.  She started the wave because we wanted to discuss her illustrations for the chapbook.  I replied the same day she started it.  Over two weeks later, I replied again and added my son to the wave.  Just over a week later, I replied again.  So this one started on 6 January and went nowhere fast.
3)      The third wave was between me and my son congratulating him on his graduation.  I started it on 6 December.  He replied 9 December.  I replied 12 December.  And he hasn’t responded since.
4)      I also have two more waves that I started but went nowhere because nobody replied and I just deleted them. 

So what is the point?  I don’t know.  I had thought it would be an easy and fun way to collaborate (see wave #2 above) but it would be easier for me to just send my daughter an email and get a reply.  And faster. 

I don’t know that it is more efficient than chatting and/or emailing and I could obviously pick up the phone and call most of the people who are currently in any of the above waves which would be even faster than emailing. 

I don’t get it.  I didn’t really see a great deal of potential for it although I saw some and now I see none.  But every day I check in to see if there are any replies to any of my current waves.  I won’t start another; I don’t see any point to it.  If anyone who is in my wave contact list waves back at least I know I’ll reply within 24 hours.  In the meantime, the google wave hasn’t been caught and the ones I started are dead in the water and sinking. 


PS:  I found this article interesting:

PPS:  I found this download that works as a wave notifier which I will download as soon as I know anyone else in my wave accounts has done so.  No point in downloading it if nobody else is trying to make wave useful.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Three For One: Young Adult Novels

To Dance:  A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel with artwork by Mark Siegel is the story of how Siena moves from Puerto Rico to Boston until she finally finds herself on stage with the New York City Ballet.  Although she herself never moves beyond the corps de ballet, she does dance on stage with some major players and watches from the wings, across from George Ballanchine, as Suzanne Farrell, Gelsey Kirkland, and Mikhail Baryshnikov

The illustrations are delightful and are even sublime in the moments when words give way to image, trying to communicate the grace and tension of ballet.  The conclusion of the memoir is rushed.  Although Siegel says she leaves ballet because of a hurt ankle, there is only one image that suggests a serious injury and it is not defined nor explained.  A tacit nod to the body image issues and eating disorders dancers often face is also shown only briefly in a series of three side-by-side panels showing smaller portions and a less happy Siena “enjoying” her dinner.  The life after ballet two pages is simply too harried and glossed over, perhaps allowing the younger reader to just enjoy the idea and idealism of dance.  Ballet, for all its beauty, is a brutal career path, one that rarely leaves the dancer without some scars as a result of the tremendous sacrifices the dancer must make over a lifetime. I would have liked to see more of the emotional struggle but I appreciate why the author chose not to go too deep.

The Waters and the Wild by Francesca Lia Block is a novel about friendship, about coming-of-age, and is so richly infused with lyricism and magic that I have fallen in love with Block all over again.  The truth is, I haven’t be as adoring of her works of late, disappointed in her hitting the same note but without the same resonance and with each new book my disenchantment was growing. 

From the very first page, a list of thirteen ways of knowing . . . well, I don’t want to give anything away.  In any event, Block weaves a beautiful tapestry of emotion, with small details that perfume the pages perfectly.  This is why I keep reading Block, kept reading in hopes that she would pull all of her talents together again in a way that would make me want to dance, leave me shimmering with enthusiasm.  Block invites her readers to read more, to write more, to create more, and what more could anyone hope from a novel that is written for a young adult audience? 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson . . . I don’t really know what I can possibly say about this book  I had avoided it for a while because I thought it couldn’t live up to its hype.  By the time I reached the conclusion, which I found overly convenient and contrived, I had tears in my eyes in spite of the clumsy climax. 

The narrator’s voice is perfectly written, quirky without falling into that false adolescence snarkiness that some writers seem to think honestly communicates teenaged angst.  Instead, Melinda expresses herself on the page with a candor and humor that is never off-putting, ironic given that she herself is sinking into silence.  Unable to speak one truth, she gradually is unable to speak at all. 

I can easily see why this book has earned so much praise and even awards.  If I were teaching, I would have no trouble finding creative ways to teach this book nor would I have any qualms discussing the book’s rather sensitive subject.  I have no doubt that this book has been foolishly banned by some overzealous and narrow-minded parents.

The highest praise I ever received as a poet is, “I wish I had written that line.”  All I can say is I wish I had written this book but I am glad someone wrote it even if I didn’t.

And if you are dead curious about how I would teach this book, just ask and I’ll happily ramble away about some of my ideas for pre-writing exercises and extra-credit.  

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Poet's Work by Sam Hamill

A Poet’s Work:  The Other Side of Poetry by Sam Hamill is a collection of essays that run the gamut from the person to the critical.  I was given this book by a friend and thought it would be a natural text for me to read before going into the poetry workshop—the same one that was canceled.  Oops.  I also thought I would read about the process of creating/writing poetry, anticipating that the concepts would be reinforced with superlative examples from different poets.

Rarely, when going into a book with expectations, can one be both disappointed and delighted and yet I found myself thrilled that the book did not live up to my expectations.  Rather, Hamill gathers together essays that are a tribute to poetry, to poets, and to the hard work and commitment that poetry demands.  His adoration especially of Japanese poetry is palpable and it is when Hamill is his most personal that the essays especially took flight for me.  The more academic essays were fulfilling on a purely intellectual level but when Hamill shares his personal experience the essays hit a deeper resonance.  Not one to pull punches, Hamill peppers each essay with his personal opinions on everything from poetry (obviously) to society and politics (surprisingly).

Whether you agree with Hamill’s opinions on anything, his ability to communicate his thoughts is glorious.  And as with brilliant poetry, his essays can be appreciated on a visceral level while also vibrating on the intellectual consciousness.  Rarely have I read anything about poetry that excited me to read more than this collection of essays has done.  Closing the book, I breathed a sigh of contentment as my hands itched to find something else as genuine to keep the stimulation alive.